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REGIONAL LEADERS AGREE ON NEW 'VOICE FOR THE NORTH'

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As local authorities from across the north met to approve the structure of new regional chamber yesterday, the chai...
As local authorities from across the north met to approve the structure of new regional chamber yesterday, the chair of the North of England Assembly said the 'need for a strong and united voice for the North East has never been stronger - and never more urgent.'

Bryn Sidaway was speaking after a special meeting of the NEA

held in Gateshead had given its backing to the constitution for the new regional chamber, which will come into operation next April and work alongside the new North East Regional Development Agency.

Meanwhile the NEA's director Stephen Barber, who has been given

responsibility for carrying forward the work of establishing the

organisational structure of the new chamber, stressed the 'great

opportunities to bring together all the talents of the region to work for a better future for the whole community.'

In its White Paper, published earlier this year, setting out its plans for establishing development aAgencies throughout the English regions, the government encouraged the establishment of regional chambers, including all sectors and reflecting the individual circumstances of each region.

Under the proposals agreed by the NEA yesterday - and which have been backed by leaders of all other key sectors - the new North East Chamber will have a total of 63 members and will include representatives of a wide range of interests within the region, including local authorities, the private sector, regional TUC, MP and MEPs, training and enterprise councils and education, culture, sport and tourism; rural interests, health and environment.

The local authority representation will include two members from each

county, metropolitan district and unitary council and one from each

district council - together with five more seats to ensure the political balance across the region is reflected in the new body.

As well as working alongside the regional development agency, the chamber will tackle a wide range of issues, from transport and strategic planning to health, environment and the arts - and, stressed cllr Sidaway, will 'make a major contribution to promoting our regional identity - and giving us a strong and united voice in both Whitehall and Europe.'

The chamber will also establish 'sector fora' with the aim of bring

together expertise from right across the community to deal with the whole range of challenges facing the region.

Said Mr Sidaway: 'The North East has led the way in developing

strong and effective partnerships between various sectors of the

community - and in campaigning for genuine regional devolution.

'That unity of purpose is reflected in the proposals agreed today for the new chamber. The determination of all sectors to make it work also reflects the widespread recognition that we must be able to take control of our destiny - and end the era where people hundreds of miles away are able to take all the key decisions about our futures.

'If anyone questioned the case for devolution, the events of recent

days - where it has become clear that some regard our region and our jobs as justifiable 'sacrifices' - have underlined beyond doubt that the need for a strong and united voice for the North East has never been stronger - and never more urgent.'

Added Stephen Barber: 'Our key partners have agreed that the NEA will

provide the core staff for the running of the new chamber and our task now is to build on the planning work we have already undertaken over recent months - and ensure that it will be ready to come into operation next April on the same timescale as the regional development agency.

'One of the crucial strengths of the new chamber is that it will include so many different interests within the community and, through structures such as the sector fora, there will be great opportunities to bring together all the talents of the region to work for a better future for the whole community.'

The proposals for the new chamber are being put forward for endorsement by organisations representing other key sectors within the region.

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